I am sure a lot of you have seen Steve Gillmor’s article on TechCrunch talking about how he has stopped using RSS because of the small amount of quality information he gets from it compared to the large amount of dross he must wade through to get it. In his case he is looking to replace it with Twitter. I personally think he will find the situation the same there over time.
Firstly the problem is not with RSS itself. RSS is only a notification method for content that is on websites. In a sense what he is getting from Twitter is a similar thing, with the added benefit of the content being edited by a person before it gets sent. I can completely see how this would be better for the way Steve states he looks for content. According to his article, he added people likely to write interesting things to his RSS. This is an attempt at a personal(ish) connection that RSS just cannot give accurately.
RSS will give everything that gets posted to the site that meets the rules set for the feed. For example, if you took the GNC feed to get more Todd, you also get myself and all the other authors (lucky you!). If all you really wanted though was to hear more about what Todd was thinking you would be getting a lot you didn’t want.
A title and part to all of the article is also not a great way to get the synopsis of the article. The brief summary may not give you a correct sense of the content. Also the content posted to websites/blogs is often a crafted piece to some degree rather than a brief summary and pointer to interesting information. This is a limit to how much of the personal you can expect.
Twitter on the other hand enforces brevity and clarity with its character limit. It is also simple and quick enough to get a higher rate of posting. There is also a level of self editing of the content that goes to Twitter. While some people tweet everything they do, others will only tweet their best stuff, or post links to relevant commentary to an ongoing discussion.
In short, if your goal is to be more connected to the information produced by the people, I can see how Twitter could work better than how RSS currently does. For myself I use RSS to get updated when specific sites I like have new content, and I am looking for specific topics so have many of the broad based sites limited through keyword filters. RSS still works better for me.
My concern is that the level of quality that Steve is currently getting from Twitter may fade as more and more people get onto the system and as Twitter evolves itself into the yet-to-be-revealed money making version of itself. RSS as an automated notification and information aggregation tool has a lot of power and acceptance, is there something we can do to make it work better for us?